Sunday, February 19, 2017

Recommended Reads in Biography and Memoir, Part 1: Childhood and Coming of Age

I sent my youngest sister a long list of recommended memoirs and biographies because they are her jam. I thought since I had done the work to make the list, I could share it with you too, updated since the list I sent her in December. Since it is so long I will post a chunk of it every now and then. Tell me what you think about this kind of post!

For books to end up on this list,
  1. I read them already
  2. I rated them 4 or 5 stars (out of 5)
  3. I still remembered them
The descriptions are for my sister, who I'm assuming has not heard of these before. Your mileage may vary! And do tell, what have I missed?



Everything by David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs
(This is a bit of a cop out but these were the first memoirs I remember reading ever, so it's been over ten years.)

The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson
This is an actor from The Office (USA) and I listened to the audio. It was fascinating because he grew up in small town Washington, but as a Ba’hai. I had never heard of anyone with that background. Also he’s a huge geek, lots of fun.

The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr
Growing up in an east Texan town with troubled parents. Mary is one of the best memoirists out there.
Cherry by Mary Karr
This is kind of the second but also simultaneous half to The Liar’s Club, kind of about when she leaves home as a teen but also rehashing some of TLC. I’d just read TLC.

An alternative to all the missionary accounts in Zimbabwe, this one is a girl who grew up there without her parents being missionaries. When [White] Rhodesia experiences a revolt, her family has to figure out what to do.

Dream More by Dolly Parton
I liked this way more than I expected. She is encouraging and like positive action on a stick, but her story really is inspiring.

Fun Home by Allison Bechdel
A graphic novel about growing up with a father who is a funeral director (aka fun. Home, get it?) This book has generated lots of controversy and probably wouldn’t be a good one to read until you had your own place, but it deals with lgbt stuff and parent-child stuff. Bechdel wore outfits and took polaroids of herself, then drew them to create all the art. She’s amazing. See also Are You My Mother? which is a followup about her relationship with her mother and also about analysis (therapy) – this one is more brainy and I didn’t care as much.

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching by Mychal Denzel Smith
One man's experience of growing up Black in America.



I actually read this during my trip home in 2014 because my friend somehow knew I would need lighter reads than what I had packed, and mailed it to our parents' house. It’s light and funny, like candy. Mindy is the person behind The Mindy Project and was also on The Office.

Individual stories about getting through the worst of it.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen
I remember being freaked out by this book, and started wondering if maybe we were actually Mennonites. I mean, her mom sang the same songs in the car as our mom.

Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming
Alan Cumming, the actor, discovered some things about his childhood and parentage that led him to write about all of it. This is great in audio, his amazing Scottish accent. And there is an episode online from the “Who Do You Think You Are” show that tells more or less the same story.

Pigs Can't Swim by Helen Peppe
The youngest child writes about her childhood growing up very poor in rural Maine.

Swallow the Ocean by Laura M. Flynn
I read this in the Creative Non Fiction class I took, a memoir about growing up with a mother suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Phew.

To the Is-Land by Janet Frame (these days only available in complete autobiography, An Angel at my Table)
A childhood in New Zealand, which would later lead to incredible mental illness which isn’t so present in this book. I read this as part of New Zealand November last year and wouldn’t have probably known about it otherwise, but Janet is a well-known poet in that country.

Full disclosure, Jeanette is one of my favorite novelists of all time. Top 3. She talks about her childhood and coming to terms with her identity despite her parents and the pressure they tried to impose to fake it.

A geeky memoir from the star of a web series called “The Guild.” Might be too geeky for you but I liked it.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Library Books Mid-February 2017

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin
Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis
Treats by Lara Williams
Black Wave by Michelle Tea
Books for Living by Will Schwalbe
We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future by Deepa Iyer
Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman by Cathy Wilkerson
Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard
Assata, an autobiography by Assata Shakur
The Giant's House by Elizabeth McCracken
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

To Dwell in Peace by Daniel Berrigan



One of my Goodreads groups is reading revolutionary reads in February, so I brought home the Davis, Wilkerson, Shakur, and Berrigan to try. My in-person book club discussed A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding on Monday, and I read the Southard to prepare for the discussion. Iyer is the March pick, but the public library has only one copy, so I thought I'd read it and return it quickly.

Williams, Tea, and Schweblin are award nominees with a lot of hype. Schwalbe is one I started in audio and decided I wanted to read it where I could mark pages and more easily make notes (audiobooks are hard this way.) The Krakauer is one I want to read for some of my campus work, and the McCracken was recommended to me by a Goodreads friend.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Reading Envy 079: Deliberately Silenced and Preferably Unheard

Rima Abunasser is a late-night guest to the Reading Envy pub. Jenny and Rima have traded book recommendations for years in social media, and it was nice to have a longer conversation about international literature, revolution, female voices, and how students respond to first-time exposure to some of these topics in her classes.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 079: Deliberately Silenced and Preferably Unheard.

The title to this episode comes from the following quote from Arundhati Roy, from The 2004 Sydney Peace Prize Lecture:
"We know of course there's really no such thing as the 'voiceless.' There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard." 
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Books featured:



The Dewbreaker by Edwidge Danticat
Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis
Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga
When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams
The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz

Other mentions:

Stanford prison experiment
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Hamitic myth
The Uncondemned (film)
"The Clan of One-Breasted Women" by Terry Tempest Williams
Arabic Literature in English (blog)
Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin
10 Books by Arab Women Writers That Should Be Translated (LitHub)

Related Episodes:
Episode 053 - The Pool I Rarely Swim In with Luke Christie

Stalk us online:

Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy

Friday, February 3, 2017

New Books In December 2016 and January 2017

It looks like in all the year-end wrap up, I forgot to post about the books I added to my collection in December. Now that it's February, this is going to be a doozy.

First, the massive pile that includes subscription books, holiday gifts, and other such things. It is missing Ema the Captive by César Aira because I loaned it to a co-worker.

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams
The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
Once We Were Sisters by Sheila Kohler
One American Robin by E.A. Mann
Mythology by Edith Hamilton
All Who Go Do Not Return by Shulem Deen
Eve Out of her Ruins by Ananda Devi
Lucky You by Erika Carter
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
Bitch Planet Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine by Deconnick Delandro
Taste of Persia: A Cook's Travels through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan by Naomi Duguid
Victuals: An Appalachian Journey by Bonni Lundy
Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer

The Flynn, Carter, and Fuller were Book of the Month items (the Flynn was added to everyone's box for December), and the Kohler was from Malaprops for January. I received the Duguid, Lundy, and Foer for holiday gifts, and purchased the Williams, Hamilton, Deem, Devi, and Delandro with gift cards. The Mann came from a podcast guest who self-published his novel. I have already read and reviewed the Williams, Flynn, Fuller, and Delandro (see previous post.)



Did you notice a tiny bottle on that book stack? When I was in library school, some of my classmates and I were obsessed with the oil blends from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, with their complex, macabre, and literary descriptions. Their cohort, Black Phoenix Trading Post, also sometimes develops blends. I had to buy this one because of the title, Jólabókaflóðið, or the Christmas Book Flood. The scent is described as "A dribble of candle wax, distant hearth-smoke, a fleck of chocolate Yule log, and aged, yellowing paper bound by well-loved leather that has passed through many gentle hands." Purchases of the oil also went toward Project Night Night, which raises money for essentials for homeless youth. I also received a book from a local (to them) used book store, but forgot to include it in the stack. It was a very yellowed copy of The Wind in the Willows.

Over the holidays, I went to a local used bookstore to see if I could find anything matching my new reading goals, and to spread some of my book credit that is always burning a hole in my pocket.

A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, and The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens
Adam by Ariel Schrag
Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits
I Am Hutterite by Mary-Ann Kirkby
The Inheritance by Sahar Khalifeh

One day, someone in one of my Goodreads groups posted about the Dorothy Publishing Project, and their deal for a straight fee for all their books so in a weak moment, I bought them! They are so beautiful!

(See all titles on the Dorothy website.)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Books Read in January 2017





Books pictured are this month's 5-star reads

Total Books Read: 30

Titles from Tournament of Books: 5

Audiobook: 3
eBook: 7
Print: 20

Graphic novel: 3
Memoir: 3
Non-fiction/essays (not including memoir): 6
Short stories: 2

Male: 11
Female: 18
Multi/other: 1

1. Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu (Hoopla eBook from library; my review)****
2. Coast Range: A Collection from the Pacific Edge (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)****
3. Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher (Hoopla audiobook from library; my review)****
4. Monterey Bay by Lindsay Hatton (library book; my review)***
5. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck (personal copy; my review)*****
6. Skylark Farm by Antonia Arslan (personal copy; my review)***
7. The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson (library book; my review)****
8. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (audio ARC; my review)*****
9. Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart (book swap; my review)****
10. The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin (library book; my review)****
11. Known and Strange Things: Essays by Teju Cole (personal copy; my review)****
12. The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni (library book; my review)***
13. What We Do Now: Standing Up For Your Values in Trump's America edited by Denis Johnson (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)****
14. After by Claire Tristram (interlibrary loan; my review)****
15. Treats by Lara Williams (library book; my review)****
16. The Grownup by Gillian Flynn (freebie from Book of the Month; my review)**
17. The Mother of All Questions: Further Reports from the Feminist Revolutions by Rebecca Solnit (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)****
18. Ema, the Captive by Cesar Aira (Malaprops book subscription; my review)****
19. Giant Days, Vol. 1 by John Allison (Hoopla eBook from library; my review)****
20. Faithful by Alice Hoffman (library book; my review)***
21. The Course of Love by Alain de Botton (library book; my review)***
22. Ground Zero, Nagasaki: Stories by Yuichi Seirai (library book; my review)****
23. When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams (personal copy; my review)****
24. News of the World by Paulette Jiles (library book; my review)****
25. The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)***
26. Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)****
27. Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick (personal copy; my review)****
28. Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller (Book of the Month; my review)****
29. Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching by Mychal Denzel Smith (Audible audiobook; my review)*****
30. Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns (personal copy; my review)****